British heavy metal vocalist Blaze Bayley, who fronted IRON MAIDEN from 1994 until 1999, will play a special MAIDEN setlist at select festivals this spring and summer. Choosing songs from his era with the band, these shows will celebrate 25 years since Blaze joined IRON MAIDEN. This will be the first and last opportunity to see such a setlist.
Blaze told Canada's The Metal Voice about his decision to play a handful of shows that focus on his MAIDEN material (see video below): "It's 25 years since I joined IRON MAIDEN, and I wanted to celebrate that, 'cause it's a really positive anniversary. I really loved being in the band. I learned so many positive things, and it's turned out really well for me. It's my era songs from 'Virtual XI', from 'The X Factor'. We're calling it the '25' set, 'cause it's 25 years. And it's the last time I'll do that many IRON MAIDEN songs together.
"What's happened is a lot of fans who either didn't know about me before these albums were re-released or they never got a chance to see me live… And there's a lot of people there that come to my gigs, almost each time, someone will come and say, 'The last time I saw you was 1996,' or something like [that]. I go, 'Well, I've got 11 solo albums. I've toured almost every year. How come you didn't see me?' So this is kind of a way for us to say, 'Hey, I'm alive. I'm doing this. Come and listen to my solo work.' And so far it's going pretty well."
Backing Blaze at these shows will be his regular touring and recording outfit taken from the British band ABSOLVA, plus ICED EARTH bassist and ABSOLVA guitarist Luke Appleton.
Blaze Bayley - lead vocals
Chris Appleton - guitar and backing vocals
Luke Appleton - guitar and backing vocals
Martin Mcnee - drums
Karl Schramm - bass and backing vocals
An additional celebration of the anniversary is a re-interpretation of "The X Factor" album cover art done by the very talented Akirant Illustration to help promote these shows and on a special run of T-shirts.
In a 2017 interview with Spain's EMP Live, Blaze talked about the obstacles he faced while trying to become accepted by MAIDEN fans as Bruce Dickinson's replacement.
"I think for all of us, if we fall in love with a band and we fall in love with a voice, it is very difficult to make an adjustment to a new voice," he explained. "And for me, I had incredible support from thousands of fans all over the world. But there are some fans that hated me, hated my voice and they still do. And that's okay, because it's not for everyone.
"My style is very different to Bruce, and when [IRON MAIDEN] chose me to replace Bruce, I was very surprised because my voice is so different," he continued. "But it is the most incredible job. As a heavy metal singer, it's perhaps the number one job that you can have — to be the singer of IRON MAIDEN. So my passion and my heart was there, and the music that we made on 'The X Factor' and 'Virtual XI', which have been re-released now on vinyl, was incredible. And people that perhaps didn't like the change at the time, now they go back and listen differently, with fresh ears, to the records and the music that we made then, and perhaps that's why now I've become more popular than I ever was after IRON MAIDEN. Now, more than 20 years, people really start to take notice of what Blaze Bayley is doing."
According to Blaze, his dismissal from MAIDEN in January 1999 came as a total shock, but he doesn't believe the band was completely to blame for the decision. "The main reason that I was leaving IRON MAIDEN is because of EMI [MAIDEN's record label] and the business," he said. "That is what I believe. At the time, BLACK SABBATH had the reunion with Ozzy [Osbourne], DEEP PURPLE had the original lineup with Ian Gillan reunion, and CD sales worldwire were going down. And I think the record company put a lot of pressure on the band to have a reunion. So, for me, it was a horrible time, but it is still a time I think of very fondly. And Steve Harris [IRON MAIDEN bassist] was really like a mentor to me and taught me so much about songwriting. So those values and the things that he taught me are things that I put into my own work now."
Image courtesy of Duke TV